While not an every day step, exfoliation is something that should be done in moderation (1-3x per week) following cleansing. We love exfoliation because it removes dirt and debris, but also dead skin cells. Why is this important? As we age, this process slows down. Exfoliating tricks the skin into turning over at a more youthful rate, which in turn helps with everything from fine lines to age spots. It is also one of your best defenses against many common skin issues.
Exfoliation helps combat acne by preventing buildup. It is also critical if you suffer from dry skin. Sometimes when the skin lacks hydration, it becomes sluggish at turning over. When that happens, breakouts take longer to purge and more blackheads form.
HOW TO EXFOLIATE
Exfoliation can be tricky in that many people are underdoing it, but just as many are overdoing it. You need to exfoliate regularly to get results, but you also need to take days off to let your skin recover. Think moderation. As a general rule, start out by exfoliating just once or twice per week. If that's all you can manage, that's okay! You'll get plenty of benefits just doing that.
Just remember, there is such a thing as too much exfoliation. Exfoliating daily or more than three times per week can irritate or even damage our skin. When that happens we risk compromising the skin's natural protective barrier, which can lead to other problems. Start slow and back off if you start to notice redness, dryness or inflammation.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
There are two main types of exfoliation. Physical exfoliants are our scrubs. These products use crushed particles and/or beads of some sort, which are then used to lift debris, cleanse and scrub the skin.
Chemical exfoliants use enzymes, alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids (some examples include glycolic, malic, salicylic, lactic acid and retinol) to help break up the bonds between dead skin cells. This then allows them to slough off or shed, as they would after being manually scrubbed.
All skin types can benefit from a physical and a chemical exfoliation. However, here are some things to take into consideration: Chemical exfoliants work well for oily, acne prone or sluggish skin as acids and enzymes help target oil, blemishes and blackheads. Chemical exfoliation is also great for aging skin, as the acids work deep within the skin to affect change.
Physical exfoliation is great for normal skin and regular maintenance. Using a scrub regularly can prevent build up and breakouts from happening. If you opt for a scrub, it's important to pay attention to what the actual exfoliator is. Look for jojoba beads, fruit seeds and other naturally-derived ingredients.
Avoid plastic beads of any kind, but also steer clear of harsh exfoliants like salt, sugar and fruit kernel shards, for the face. These can cause micro-tears which will damage and aggravate the skin.
TIPS & TRICKS:
If you currently exfoliate a few times per week but feel like the results are lacking, we recommend changing up your exfoliation. If you only use a physical scrub, it might be time to switch to a chemical exfoliant or vice versa. If you're an exfoliation junkie (more than 3 times per week), we recommend cutting back to only 2 or 3 times weekly, and seeing how your skin responds. You might be surprised to find you experience less dry or tight skin, less inflamed acne or sensitivity. Your other products may even work better, if you give your skin a little breather.
Photo by @gagewoodphoto courtesy of Sorella Apothecary